Last month I posted a piece on the French presidential elections, predicting that they were about as tough to call as they come. I reflected on the fact that so many supporters of the Parti Socialiste said two highly contradictory things during the same conversation – that President Sarkozy is so low in the polls he has had it … and that President Sarkozy could still win.
One of the things holding them back from confidence was their concern that high poll ratings for the favoured candidate for the PS, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, would shrink once he left the respectability of the top job at the IMF for the rough and tumble of a campaign against a street-fighter like Sarko.
There was also the concern that stories about DSK’s private life would become an issue. The French media are famously less prurient or interested in politicians’ sex lives than ours, but Sarkozy’s ‘bling bling’ profile and his divorce then marriage to a film star have somewhat changed the mood.
And it will be impossible for even the most privacy-minded French paper to ignore the breaking news from New York that Strauss-Kahn has been arrested in connection with a ‘sexual attack.’ One of the rules of politics is its unpredictability. A few weeks ago, DSK was seen as a certainty by many to represent the left against Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen of the Front National. Today that mood has been shaken.
The buzz from the Sarkozy camp when I was last in Paris was that Francois Hollande was the one they really wanted. I wondered at the time if there was an element of double bluff attached to that. Whatever the real wishes of the President, the news from New York will confirm the view that he is not out of this, and confirm the view of Francois Hollande that he may well end up as the PS candidate.
Hollande, you may remember, is the former husband of the PS candidate last time round, Segolene Royal. How dull the UK media must find the private lives of our political leaders compared with those of the French…
*** Off to Middlesbrough today to play in a benefit match for former Burnley full-back Gary Parkinson, who had a stroke last year and has ‘locked-in syndrome’. Gary, just 43, is something of a legend at Burnley, having scored the winner in the 1994 play-offs that saw us promoted to the Championship, and then gone leaping over the barriers at Wembley to celebrate with the fans. I am playing in a team managed by Tony Mowbray and am particularly looking forward to playing with two of our players from that great day at Wembley, goalkeeper Marlon Berseford and the scorer of our other goal, David Eyres.
Gary played for a number of clubs, all of whom have been involved in different fundraising activities, and I hope Boro supporters come out in force to support him and his family.